The only true power we have in the world is that which we command, of ourselves and our reactions to the world.
How to nurture the Stoic within you? Someone cuts you off in traffic, or steals a cab, or cuts in queue, or calls you out online, or sends you a baseless, accusatory text or email or even accosts you verbally — all of these are affronts to our sensibilities. How we handle them is our choice. And at times, I find, my reactions are not those that I, later on, realize were the most optimal for the situation. They were not Stoic enough.
Situations like those above trigger reactions. Being animals first, and cognizant, critically thinking humans second, we react in ways that may be hardwired into our physiology. Someone smacks your finger with a hammer, you react with anger. Someone disparages you personally or belittles your ideas, you may react with hurtful feelings or lash out with aggression, depending on your assailant and the degree of attack.
Fighting these reactions, the innate, raw emotions, often driven by hormonal release, is tough. But the Stoic must try, right?
I recently entered into a regrettable discussion online with someone who’s beliefs I apparently contested with a whacky idea of mine. They reacted with animosity and a superior attitude, scornfully discounting the idea. The Stoic within me was no where to be found. And so it went, neither of us finding our inner Stoic, each with an apparent dog in the shallow, meaningless fight. Isn’t that the way of things? Escalation of contention begets more and more tension, more angst. Neither backing down, neither willing to adopt civility, as if, to take a step back is to accede the argument?
Humans! Can’t live with them, can’t live without.
[Thought: Does marijuana reduce the perceptions of threat and therefore elevate the concept of being Stoic? Did the ancient Greek philosophers imbibe, and did it help them elevate their spirits, help them find their inner Stoic?]
Regardless, here’s to becoming more of a Stoic in 2018.